Solzhenitsyn’s realistic/modernistic writings have developed essentially around his own personal biography. His modernistic nature encompasses the social environments that were quickly becoming outdated both socially and politically in a time were immorality of mankind had been built around their daily lives. Alexander’s unique sense of writing style separates him from other authors, because he uses his biography in such a way that entraps the reader. “He presents the information with such tact and clarity that the reader may come to their own conclusions while Solzhenitsyn skillfully avoids the trap of taking sides” (Monas 398). Solzhenitsyn’s writings have some things in common such as the themes can all relate to one another such as imprisonment, personal suffering, and the moral aspect that is gained by people who endure and learn from their suffering such as in “Matryona’s Home”. Together these help to emphasize the vigor of the individual soul, which can clearly be seen throughout his stories.
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Solzhenitsyn’s early life began growing up fatherless in Rostov, Russia, leaving only his mother to raise him (Lawall 2262). Without the help of his father, the family was extremely poor, and the Russian Civil War did not help the situation at all. His mother and Aunt Irina supported his beliefs under a strong religious and intellectual influence emphasizing in particular his moral commitments to the Russian Orthodox faith, playing an essential part in his works (Ericson 257). After graduating from high school, he went to school at the Department of Mathematics at Rostov University.
He served during World War II as a commander of a reconnaissance battery in the Red Army in 1942. This time period is where he begins to essentially develop a process of his own writings about being a soldier during the war. He began having his doubts about it, and wrote a letter to his friend, Nikolai Vitkevich, who answered all of his letters even after a year’s silence, and it would not make a difference in the world (Scammell 136). In this letter it had criticized the Soviet leader, Stalin along with several other top officials. After the letter had been intercepted and screened by military mail screeners, he was accused of anti-Soviet propaganda, thus he was immediately arrested and sentenced to eight years in prison. It was during this period of imprisonment and exile that he started to abandon his Marxist beliefs, because it has “fallen so low that it has become an anecdote; it’s simply an object of contempt” (Solzhenitsyn 54).
After getting out of prison Solzhenitsyn gradually turned into a philosophically-minded Christian as a result of his experience in prison and the work camps throughout his incarceration which was tremendously important in understanding his writing system during this time (Ericson 177-205). This gave him the ability to include more detail throughout his stories such as in Matryona’s Home. At first he describes setting as a town of peace and quiet with villages that have complete silence from the modernized world in a first person point of view. When he talks about sitting on a stump for a long time, wishing that he did not have to eat so that he can stay there forever, giving it a more simplistic and naturalistic tone to the story. This engages a visual picture through imagery to captivate the reader. I really like this part about it, because it is something we can all relate to by enjoying a little peace and quiet. He does not engage with materialistic things, it is the simple things in life that bring him joy such as untouched nature. He is enjoying the freedom from not being in prison, and he does not take things for granted anymore. I for one can see why he would not want to be bothered after the mess that he had went through.
Before going to Matryona’s home he describes the setting around him, he was walking from village to village looking for a place to stay giving detail of the families he had asked. The first family he had asked had no room as they were keeping her aged mother, and the rest of the homes were crowded and noisy. He offered a “truckload of peat for the winter for whoever would take him”, meaning that they would not have to go out in the bitter cold. The people would take him, but there was just not enough room for him, this depicts the lives of the villagers.
The last house that he visited was an old woman in her sixties named Matryona. She had the characteristics of a grandmother; old, senile, but in the end they almost always give in. The house was described as “turning gray with age”, because the house was old. At first you would not want to stay in a shack like this, but under the circumstances with nobody being able to accept him, he really had no other options. He offered the peat, and she took him up on the offer to pay for the rent. She had a cat, cockroaches, and mice living with her. The cockroaches had to be overlooked, as for she was scared that putting borax down would harm the cat as well. There is symbolism here, but I am not quite sure how to put it, the cat could symbolize the old Russia, slowly falling apart, and when you try to hurt the cockroaches which would symbolize Stalin, and the corruption, that there will be some fatalities that come down with them. Taking down corruption is not an easy task, because you must take it from the inside out in order to succeed.
The mice would represent this, because they are in the walls of the building.
Over time he got used to Matyona’s cottage just as she did, because she had to either adapt to the environment or have nowhere else to go, so surely she was going to pick the home. Throughout time he had realized that she had more to do than just cooking and sitting at home all day. She had a schedule to go by, and she kept to it. Further in the story he explained that she was not receiving a pension from her husband and that she had worked for credits. This is similar to what old people do today, but I did not know that pensions were given that long ago. We take care of our old people today, looking up to them, and try to give them a helping hand when in need. This is where he begins to tackle the sympathizing with the readers to better involve ourselves with it. We can choose to be either for her or against her, as for he has no sides in this story, because it is base on morals.
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After Ingnatich showed us the features that Matryona and he symbolizes her as saint, putting others before herself, just as my grandmother does for me. When she had heard on the radio that new machines had been invented, she would always complain about in with the new and out with the old. Like I said earlier, she has that grandmother affect about her not wanting change, and just keeping things the way they are. I could relate to having new machines, because it is for the better, and we just have to show them this even though they are stubborn. He got upset with her about wearing his jacket, and doing things for everybody else and not taking care of herself, and she would never accept pay for anything at all. That day she had died in an accident. He felt guilty about her death, because he yelled at her, and now he cannot take it back. This is interesting that she had died so suddenly, and her death showed the true colors of some of the townspeople just as death always brings people out of the woodworks. This is sort of a good thing though for her, as she is in a better place now where pain cannot be felt, and no more worries to worry about, and she is in God’s hands now.
When reading this book, we can put ourselves in Ignatich’s shoes relating to the imprisonment of being watched by “Big Brother”, like when his letter was read, and they sent him to prison. The personal sufferings can be related to with the poverty that the people are put through, and have to make out with what little they have. The moral aspect that is gained by people who endure and learn from their suffering such as Ignatich did when living in the life of Matryona. He was able to get in and study her, and the things that made her tick. He built that personal relationship with her, and that is why the old woman really wanted, and that is why she tried so hard to make friends with everyone.
In conclusion, “his work epitomizes a peculiarly modernistic way of dealing with moral reasoning and its problems by debunking, deconstructing, and dissolving the hermeneutics of suspicion by demonstrating how its assumptions lead to a misreading of the empirical realties of realities of history. Then he goes beyond this deconstruction to found a postmodern ethic that affirms human dignity in the face of state terrorism” (Inchausti 34). Solzhenitsyn was once a leader commander of a reconnaissance, and had some bad practices, but after imprisonment he has deconstructed himself, and was built back up under extreme circumstances putting him in another person’s shoes seeing it from another perspective. This story brings out the soul of the reader to sympathize and relate, and it also gives the readers a warning, that your morals play a larger role in life than you think, so make wise decisions before you act.
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